DON JUAN THE SORCERER - Carlos Castaneda interviewed by Theodore Roszak. Author of "The Teachings of Don Juan" discusses his experiences with hallucinogenic substances used under the guidance of his Yaqui Indian teacher, don Juan Matus. BROADCAST: KPFA, 30 Jan. 1969.(37 min.) BB2038 Pacifica Radio Archives.
April 10, 2015
Excellently recorded and preserved, thankfully, since recordings of Carlos Castaneda's voice are rare. It's been over 10 years since I devoured Castaneda's books, and I've found my way back into his orbit, this time wiser. Don Juan Matus is a pseudonym. However, the use of plants such as peyote and jimson weed would have required some kind of guide otherwise I don't believe Carlos would have or could have survived miscalculations with some of these potentially deadly substances. Plus, everyone knows that you NEED a babysitter, (a sober person there to make sure you don't fall down and hit your head or jump out of a window.) Therefore, I believe without a doubt that Castaneda did indeed have a mentor in the subject. So, why not Don Juan Matus? It is stated in The Teachings of Don Juan that, if you don't like the path, don't take the path. It's as simple as that. The field of 'sorcery' is self-regulating, since just because you read a book or all the books by Castaneda, does not mean you will instantly become trapped on the path of imagining you are a crow and turn into light and transcend death. The debunkers seem to have skimmed the books in a spirit of malice and totally missed the point in favor of looking for chinks in the armor. And the books of Castaneda are indeed armored by merit of exceptional storytelling as well as point-making, whether or not you agree on those points. The lowest common denominator in humans want to know the gossip and the dirt, and there is little of intellectual value in tabloid fodder, and the digging through the garbage cans and stalking of a person who wants to live a private life, which is what some so-called "sane and normal" people have done to Castaneda at the end of his life. Here's one point: if you don't agree in something, don't believe it, move along. If the path has no heart, or if your heart is not in a path, you are free not to take that path. (pardon the less than scholarly composition, i am no Castaneda.)
November 20, 2009
A Hidden Meaning in the Work of Carlos Castaneda
An excellent interview, which prompts me to share the following overview of Castaneda's work:
The stories about sorcerers who are determined to outwit death and to ‘merge with the intent of infinity,’ as related in the several books by Carlos Castaneda, could be said to be a reflection of the wave of popular interest in exploration of the boundaries of consciousness that was somewhat characteristic of sophisticated Western society some forty or so years ago. Whether the accounts are really true or fabricated has been a matter of heated debate from the first. Whilst they certainly tend to stretch credibility almost to snapping point, there is a curiously attractive element that invites one to believe in the characters and their extraordinary adventures. The reported death of Carlos Castaneda in Los Angeles (1998) from an ugly disease must have been something of a blow for those readers who had no trouble believing in the stories.
Their relevance today? Well, whatever one cares to believe about the veracity of the story itself the work contains, through implication, a thorough critique of the human ethos. So skilfully is it woven into the texture of the tales that it may well have passed unnoticed, intentionally or otherwise, by millions of readers. Concealed in the romance of sorcery and magic is a totally disenchanted view of human society. The characters in the story simply turn their backs on humanity, occupying themselves instead with their all-absorbing interest: 'the mastery of awareness,' the abandonment of the ‘inner dialogue’ and the exploration of dimensions outside ordinary perception. Though the implied critique of humanity is easy to overlook or ignore, it interestingly amounts to a complete dismissal: why should anyone so passionately desire to leave forever the comfort and reassurances of normal association to travel the relatively lonely and often deeply disturbing path of sorcery?
Further, it appears that these stories are specifically to do with ways and means of leaving the repetitious cycles of the human world; the characters are wholly concerned with such departure and are not concerned with the global doings and importance of humankind—except in so far as human conditioning is considered to be the most serious impediment to the way of infinite freedom.
The ‘mastery of awareness' is deemed necessary in order to attain complete freedom from the binding conception of the known world, not so as to impress other people with acquired personal powers but in order to achieve freedom or ‘the totality of oneself.’ The sole concession to what might be called 'social consciousness' is to know how to behave so as not to attract unwanted attention and interference. The adepts-in-training simultaneously set about extricating themselves from society: this is the first step to being free, because as far as society is concerned, its patterns amount to the only known truth and no-one can escape its obsessive documentation. It is therefore seen to be vitally necessary to ease oneself out of the grip of the belief in social truth. Obviously this is an arduous task, due to a host of pressing survival concerns, such as bills, responsibilities, commitments, fears and unsatisfied desires.
The character of don Juan is, through Carlos' relative slow-wittedness and his reluctant curiosity, able to reflect accurately the quality of being human in all its complexity and deviousness. That humanity is not a worthwhile investment for the free spirit is regarded by don Juan as self-evident. That one should use every possible means to dissolve one’s hapless fixation is unquestionably the only right thing to do!
It is likely that more than a few readers of these books have actually journeyed to the Mexican desert, particularly from the neighbouring US, in search of characters like those described or in order somehow to find their own way to fulfillment. This reviewer doesn’t think that going anywhere in particular or trying to secure ideal conditions can awaken an interest in the infinite mystery that surrounds us and in the source of awareness: that must happen from ‘within,’ as it were, regardless of circumstances. To encourage us all, we have these exhuberant, joyful, whimsically humorous stories centering on the play of ‘power’ among some of the most engaging characters ever to have left the earth for inconceivable adventures.